BWW Review: THE WICKHAMS: CHRISTMAS AT PEMBERLEY at Marin Theatre Company is wonderful alternative holiday fare

BWW Review: THE WICKHAMS: CHRISTMAS AT PEMBERLEY at Marin Theatre Company is wonderful alternative holiday fare

Marin Theatre Company's world premiere companion piece to Laura Gunderson and Margot Melcon's highly successful Jane Austen adaptation Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley is an intelligent pleasure to those of us starved for 'non-traditional' holiday fare. With crisp, smart dialogue, wonderful ensemble acting, and deft direction by Megan Sandberg-Zakian, The Wickhams incorporates intrigue, romance, and holiday chaos, all set in the frame of the 'life downstairs' at the Pemberley estate for Christmas, 1815.

BWW Review: THE WICKHAMS: CHRISTMAS AT PEMBERLEY at Marin Theatre Company is wonderful alternative holiday fare
Brian (August Browning) looks on as Lydia Wickham (Madeline Rouverol) and George Wickham (Kenny Toll) embrace.

A continuation of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, Gunderson and Melcon's Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley, which covered the events upstairs, became the most produced play of 2017. With Wickhams, we get to enjoy the mirror image of the same events as the servants prepare for the impending Christmas festivities, shining a light on their unique importance while giving voice those oft left unheard. While we get incursions from the upstairs gentry (the Darcy's, Fitzwilliam and Lizzie, as well as the foolishly romantic Lydia Wickham), the play focuses on the no-nonsense housekeeper Mrs. Reynolds, industrious and dedicated Brian, and newcomer Cassie, smart and eager to perform well.

BWW Review: THE WICKHAMS: CHRISTMAS AT PEMBERLEY at Marin Theatre Company is wonderful alternative holiday fare
Fitzwilliam Darcy (David Everett Moore) and Lizzie Bennet (Melissa Ortiz)

Jennie Brick shines as Mrs. Reynolds, a force of nature as she rules the roost, both over her charges and the head of the household. She knows her place in the pecking order but possesses a strength and intelligence that belies her station. When given any accolade, she's prone to saying, "praise slows me down," yet she knows her importance in keeping the ship afloat. August Browning's Brian grew up in service at the estate and takes pride in his responsibilities. A novice inventor, he creates a biscuit mold to help ease the workload of supplying the much-loved Christmas goodies. Shy and awkward, he's taken with newcomer Cassie, who comes to be the new housemaid. Neiry Rojo is excellent as the smart, independent woman, who reads books and is a role model of a strong female character.

BWW Review: THE WICKHAMS: CHRISTMAS AT PEMBERLEY at Marin Theatre Company is wonderful alternative holiday fare
Lizzie Bennet (Melissa Ortiz) with her sister, Lydia Wickham (Madeline Rouverol)

The order of downstairs life is thrown into chaos with the unwanted arrival of the banished George Wickham (played with absolute scoundrel glee by Kenny Toll), who is hugely in debt, mired in scandal and seeking money from his wife Lydia who is spending Christmas with her sister Lizzie and family. Madeline Rouverol's Lydia is foolish and romantically silly, and makes excuses for her neglectful husband. David Everett Moore is officious and regal as Mr. Darcy, determined to maintain order and opposed to George's attempts to take Lydia to Paris and escape his predicaments. As Lizzie Darcy, Melissa Ortiz will scheme to help separate her sister from her loser husband and find her inner power.

BWW Review: THE WICKHAMS: CHRISTMAS AT PEMBERLEY at Marin Theatre Company is wonderful alternative holiday fare
Cassie (Neiry Rojo) and Brian (August Browning) transport Lizzie's Christmas tree upstairs.

Over the course of events, truths are revealed, Cassie and Brian bond, the female characters are emboldened, and evil gets its comeuppance.

Megan Sandberg-Zakian directs what could a static set with skillful movement of the characters through Wilson Chin's detailed basement kitchen. Filled with every imaginable bric a brac, the kitchen comes alive with activity, smartly lit by Wen-Ling Liao's subtle yet effective lighting design. Courtney Flores provides the period Regency era costumes for both servant and aristocracy.

The Wickhams: Christmas at Pemberley incorporates the very best of the high-quality British period pieces we've all enjoyed over the years (Downton Abbey, Poldark, A Room with a View, and Sense and Sensibility), great acting, sumptuous costumes, lovely sets, and a glimpse into the values of class and privilege that ruled the eras. MTC should run these two shows simultaneously all fall from now on. They're that good.

The Wickhams: Christmas at Pemberley continues through December 16th, 2018.

Marin Theatre Company, 397 Miller Avenue, Mill Valley

TICKETS: marintheatre.org | (415) 388-5208

Photos by Kevin Berne.

Related Articles View More San Francisco Stories   Shows






From This Author Steve Murray

Before you go...

Like Us On Facebook
Follow Us On Twitter
Follow Us On Instagram
   



  SHARE